US commission supports sanctions for Chinese human rights abusers

A bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate lawmakers, which comprise the 17-member Congressional-Executive Commission on China, call for the use of economic sanctions against Chinese nationals and companies that are linked to human rights abuses in China.

The commission’s report, which was released Wednesday, said that since China’s violent response to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the country’s political leadership has “expanded a costly and elaborate authoritarian system designed to intimidate, censor and even imprison Chinese citizens for exercising their fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of religion.”

Congress established the commission in 2000, prior to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, to monitor China’s human rights and development of the rule of law. The committee submits an annual report to the president and Congress with its recommendations.

The commission’s latest report reviews the period from August 2018 to August 2019. During this period, China has allegedly increased the use of mass incarceration of Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and responded violently to protesters in Hong Kong.

The commission recommended the Trump administration address these human rights abuses by using its authority under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction Chinese officials and businesses involved with the imprisonment and surveillance of the Muslim Uyghurs and other oppressed citizens.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has used the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to place political officials from around the world on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List. U.S. persons and companies are generally prohibited from conducting business with individuals or entities on the list.

The commission said the White House should also work with Congress to “pass legislation that provides information and new authorities, including export controls and limitations on U.S. government procurement from China, that will allow a more robust approach to the Chinese government’s atrocities in the XUAR.”

This action would require placement of XUAR government and other Chinese security agencies on the Commerce Department’s Entity List and require U.S. colleges and universities to publicly report all foreign gifts, contracts and in-kind contributions that exceed $10,000 per year from a single foreign government or group institutions.

The report’s recommendations come before the Trump administration’s planned Wednesday signing of the phase one trade deal with China